Saul "Canelo" Alvarez returned to the boxing ring on Saturday night, a statement that is true in more than one way. After a trio of disappointing performances that had many believing Alvarez's skills were in decline, he returned to form Saturday night by shutting down and dominating Jermell Charlo to retain his undisputed super middleweight title.
The fight was technically the first meeting of male undisputed champions in the four-belt era, though Charlo was stripped of his WBO junior middleweight title once the belt began. Despite the accomplishments of both men, it was clear from early in the fight that Alvarez was simply too strong and too good.
After 12 rounds and one knockdown, Alvarez took the win by official scores of 118-109, 118-109, and 119-108.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo at the conclusion of the PPV event below.
Let's look at some of the biggest takeaways from Saturday's big clash in Las Vegas.
The return of "Canelo"
For years, Alvarez stood as boxing's pound-for-pound best fighter. Every elite fighter eventually hits a point in their career where their skills decline and a new crop of young talent takes their place. Prior to stepping in the ring with Charlo, it seemed that time had arrived.
Alvarez had dropped a clear decision to Dmitry Bivol in pursuit of a light heavyweight title and then won two uninspiring decisions against Gennadiy Golovkin and John Ryder. Fans, pundits and fellow fighters all began to openly question if Alvarez's time as a top fighter was coming to a close.
Alvarez insisted that the performances were the result of nagging injuries that kept him from engaging in standard training camps. At least for one night, that appeared to be true. Alvarez outlanded Charlo by a margin of 134 to 71, according to CompuBox, and dug hard to the body throughout before a right hand to Charlo's head in Round 7 led to a delayed knockdown.
Reports of Alvarez's demise have been exaggerated, and that means there are plenty of appealing options for his next fight. Alvarez said he plans to fight on Cinco De Mayo weekend and options from David Benavidez to Dmitry Bivol will all be in the conversation.
Another big fight, another dominant performance
2023 has been a terrific year for boxing, with massive fights being made at a rate unheard of in the modern era. While that is undeniably a great thing for a sport that has been in an unhealthy place for so long, these big fights have not delivered much drama. Instead, one fighter has dominated the action in just about every heavily-hyped showdown.
Gervonta Davis shut Ryan Garcia down with a body shot, Naoya Inoue ran through Stephen Fulton and Terence Crawford humiliated Errol Spence Jr. The only big fight that delivered 12 rounds of thrilling action this year was Devin Haney's undisputed lightweight title defense against Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Saturday night was no different. Charlo was clearly outclassed every step of the way despite a lot of big talk in the lead-up to the fight. Charlo's performance drew criticism from plenty, including the man he called out for his next fight, Terence Crawford.
The one thing missing from boxing's year is a great fight between two pound-for-pound elites. While Saturday didn't deliver that, it's possible that the recently announced fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk could put the perfect bow on a great year for the sport.
Another bad decision on a big stage
For all the good boxing has delivered this year, old issues persist. On Saturday's undercard, fans witnessed yet another round of indefensible ringside scorecards when Erickson Lubin was given a fairly wide unanimous decision win over Jesus Ramos Jr.
Ramos and Lubin didn't put on a thriller, but it seemed clear Ramos had done enough to have deserved the win, with a draw possibly in play after Ramos backed off down the stretch. Instead of the scorecards reflecting what happened in the fight, Lubin was given the nod on all three scorecards at 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111.
The decision was met with loud boos from those in attendance and those boos did not stop when Lubin was interviewed after the fight.
It's unfortunate, but even as boxing is having its best year in decades, these old problems continue to crop up when all eyes are on the sport and it feels like nothing will ever be done to fix them.